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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 22 Feb 1962

Vol. 193 No. 4

Committee on Finance. - Vote 40—Forestry.

I move:

That a supplementary sum not exceeding £91,700 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on 31st day of March, 1962, for salaries and expenses in connection with forestry (No. 13 of 1946 and No. 6 of 1956) including a grant-in-aid for acquisition of land.

When I was introducing the Estimate for Forestry for 1961/62 last July, I informed the House that agreement had been reached with the trade unions concerned to increase the basic wage rates of forestry labourers by 7/6d. a week with effect from 1st April, 1961, and that provision to meet the extra expenditure involved would probably have to be made in a Supplementary Estimate later in the year.

The effect of the increase in the basic wage rates is the primary reason for the Supplementary Estimate now before the House but some unforeseen excesses are also anticipated on other heads of expenditure.

Taking the items in order, an additional sum of £28,000 is required on Subhead A—Salaries, Wages and Allowances—to meet the cost of increases in remuneration granted since the original Estimate was framed and of additional staff which it has been necessary to recruit.

On Subhead C.2—Forest Development and Management—the Supplementary Estimate provides for additional expenditure of £214,100 on Parts (1), (2), (4) and (5) of the subhead but this amount is offset to the extent of £90,000 by savings on other parts of the subhead, to give a net requirement of £124,100. The over-expenditure on Subhead C.2 is entirely attributable to increased expenditure on labour. The additional sum being provided for labour in the Supplementary Estimate is £149,000. On heads of expenditure other than labour, a net saving of £24,900 is expected. Of the anticipated excess on labour, £84,000 is due to the increase in basic wage rates to which I referred earlier and the balance is attributable to the provision of employment on forestry work at a higher level than expected when the Estimate was being prepared. When I was introducing the Estimate I told the House that it was framed in the expectation that the average employment level for the year would be approximately 4,700 men. In fact, the average number of men employed to date has been 4,778 and for the full year the average will probably turn out to be about 4,800 men.

Despite set-backs due to weather conditions in some areas and the disruption of normal forest operations at a number of centres because of the severe storm damage suffered during the year, work on most forestry operations has been progressing satisfactorily and I expect that the planting programme of 25,000 acres for the year will be fully accomplished, making this the third successive year in which such a high level of planting has been attained.

The small excess anticipated on Subhead C.3—Sawmilling—is primarily due to higher labour expenditure arising from an increase in the wages of sawmill workers. On Subhead F— Agency, Advisory and Special Services—the anticipated over-expenditure arises from the employment of the services of a firm of industrial consultants in connection with the incentive bonus scheme for forestry workers for a longer period than originally expected.

On Subhead G—Appropriations-in-Aid—provision is being made in the Supplementary Estimate for an income of £43,000 in excess of the amount provided in the original Estimate. Market conditions for all classes of material have been very favourable during the year. The pulpwood market has been maintained and the increasing volume of material of sawlog size becoming available has commanded a ready market. Production of transmission and telegraph poles has continued at a high level. Total income for the year is now expected to reach £585,000, almost £130,000 higher than the record level achieved in 1960/61. There is every reason to believe that the markets for the produce of the State forests will continue to expand and that progressive increases in the allowance for appropriations-in-aid in the vote for Forestry will be possible in future years.

I recommend the Supplementary Estimate to the House.

Is this in order, Sir.

Deputy Tully is the only Deputy who offered.

He is not.

On a point of order, Sir, it is your duty to look to the front Opposition bench first, after the Minister has finished speaking.

That is your duty.

If the Deputy thinks I am showing preference, he is wrong.

It is a well established rule in this House over the past 30 or 40 years that when the Minister makes his statement, the Ceann Comhairle looks to the front Opposition bench. It is a gross abuse of that well established procedure for the Chair to turn, not to the front Opposition bench but elsewhere.

Definitely, I did not turn from the front Opposition bench.

It is your duty to turn to the front Opposition bench first.

I waited to see if anybody else would rise and only when nobody did so did I stand up.

I looked to the front Opposition bench and nobody stood up and I must say I was surprised.

I stood up as soon as the Minister had finished his speech.

I want to assert emphatically that I looked at the front Opposition bench and that no one offered. Then I looked elsewhere.

This is very enlightening, in view of the discussion we had yesterday.

I am positive that I looked at the front Opposition bench first.

I stood up and tried to catch your eye, Sir.

In the circumstances, I shall call Deputy Esmonde now. The front Opposition bench does get that preference.

In view of the fact that you called me and that Fine Gael did not offer anybody, I think it most unseemly that abuse can make the Ceann Comhairle change his decision.

In dealing with this Estimate, the first thing that strikes one is that it is, in the main, an Estimate to enable the Minister to meet the cost of increased wages. Every section of the Forestry Department is concerned in it and one would be in order in offering a few remarks as to the operation of the Forestry Department as a whole. Yesterday Deputy Mullen asked the Taoiseach a question with regard to forestry and the reply given seemed to me to be an indication that the be-all and end-all of forestry policy in this country is to plant 25,000 acres every year. If the State is to acquire 25,000 acres of land every year, and we may assume that they will do that, if there is not a change in policy, over 20 years, it means that of the 12,000,000 acres of arable land available in this country, the State will own a considerable portion.

I am not directly opposed to afforestation, provided the land acquired by the State for that purpose is land suitable for forestry and I am glad to see a considerable improvement in the policy of the Department compared with what it was some years back. Some time ago, the Department acquired all the land they could lay hands on, regardless of whether it was suitable for forestry or not, and it all went into the statistics as land acquired for forestry. I am glad to see that they are now going for higher land, second-class land and marginal land.

At the same time, I do not think it is satisfactory that we should have a policy for the acquisition of 25,000 acres of land every year. That land is coming into the ownership of the State. It means that the Department is making a big encroachment on the land that is available to the individual. It may be very difficult to get private individuals to take up and afforest land. There may be good reasons for that but I have frequently suggested to the Minister for Lands that the Forestry Department should take over land, plant that land and subsequently lay it off when they have developed and planted it. It could be laid off to private individuals or to local authorities and the Department could act in an advisory capacity, have a controlling interest over it and see that it is properly attended to. The State should not acquire such large quantities of land and hold it.

The system I have suggested is adopted in practically every country in Europe. We are adopting a mentality that is detrimental to our national interests, that is that the State should take and keep control of everything. We must have experts controlling forestry development but the Minister should consider that aspect of it seriously. If the policy is to be continued of acquiring 25,000 acres of land annually, in a generation or so the amount of land owned by the State will be phenomenal. We are a private enterprise economy here and we ought to live up to that. I do not see any hope in the reply given by the Taoiseach that we are living up to it.

The State owns considerable forests now and the State is practically the biggest single marketing organisation in the country. There are many people in a small way who own sawmills throughout the country and who are endeavouring to buy small quantities of timber. It may be more economical for the State to sell an entire forest of a couple of thousand trees at a time but an opportunity should be given to the smaller people to purchase what they require. There is a considerable amount of public money invested in afforestation and therefore the Forestry Department owes a certain duty to the public. A smaller sawmill owner who wants to buy only 50 or 100 trees should be given an opportunity of tendering for that number. I have in my pocket a letter from a constituent saying that, owing to being unable to acquire timber, he will have to close and let his employees go. It does not seem to me that the State would lose very much by selling those small amounts of timber but in any case they would be helping those concerned to buy timber to keep their local little industries going.

In regard to the overall policy on forestry, I am brought back to consider the heavy territories the Forestry Branch have at their command. I should like to have from the Minister an indication of policy. The State forests must now be maturing in many cases, after forty years of our own government, as also must many of the forests acquired from private individuals and there should be considerable sales of timber in the future. Have the Government any intention of setting up auxiliary industries? The timber accruing from the 25,000 acres planted annually should gradually dispose of the need for the import of thinnings and transplants. Is the Minister satisfied that this timber can be readily absorbed within the State itself where there is a limited market? I feel that timber is not available to those who wish to sell it wholesale and I want to get from the Minister a reply to the question: Is it intended to set up auxiliary industries in association with forestry?

I have in mind the Black Forest and the Vosges—two of the biggest southern European forestry centres— and associated with them are innumerable small factories making furniture, etc. I gather those were originally inspired by the forestry departments of the countries concerned and were subsequently opened for the investment of private capital and turned back into private enterprise ventures utilising timber owned by the State. I should, perhaps, clarify that. The State does not actually own the timber in those cases but they have a system, to which I have already referred, by which they hand back on lease those forests to individuals and municipalities.

Those are points I should like the Minister to consider. If I have been critical it is only because I hold certain definite views. I do not want the forestry officials to think that I am necessarily attacking them but I feel that over the years forestry policy is not sufficiently directed towards private enterprise and I am still a wholehearted supporter of a private enterprise economy.

The main point that pleased me in the Minister's speech is that he told us that this year's appropriation for the Vote will be about £580,000 because—I am speaking from memory and subject to correction —in 1948 when the inter-Party Government took over Forestry, the total Estimate for that year was much less than the receipts from Forestry this year. That is a very satisfactory advance when we are considering a Supplementary Estimate such as this.

I should like the Minister to give us some indication of what the outlook is now that we have attained the 25,000 acres a year planting target. Have the Government or the technicians of the Department been considering whether that is too much, too little or just enough? That target was set about ten years ago and it is certainly to the credit of the Department's officials that it has been achieved because the planting of 25,000 acres a year may seem very simple but for those engaged in it, the purchasing of land is a slow and tedious operation. So is the raising of the necessary transplants, the draining, the fencing and the laying of roads and various other operations connected with Forestry. It is all very well for us to talk of 25,000 acres a year or 100,000 acres a year but I say that our forestry officials— and I speak with experience of Scottish foresters, the British, the Swedes and other forestry people in other countries —can take their place with the best in the world. They are certainly much better than many that I know of and I want to take this opportunity of saying so in the House.

When the Minister is replying, perhaps he would tell us whether we are to stick at the 25,000 acres, neither increasing nor reducing it from now on? There has been a good deal of nonsensical talk, to which I would advise the Minister to pay no attention, to the effect that the time has now come to hand over some of the State forests to private owners. If he does that he will kill forestry here once and for all. We know quite well what private enterprise will do with the forests if they get them—root them out and plunder them and leave the ground a litter of stumps and rubbish. There will be no talk of replanting. In my opinion the State is the only suitable body and I am even ruling out State-sponsored bodies such as the E.S.B. The machinery set up and in operation at present is the most suitable method of establishing a sufficient acreage of forest here.

Deputy Esmonde spoke of industries connected with forestry. Would the Minister tell us what cubic footage is extracted from the forests each year? The fact that the Minister says he hopes to rake off £585,000 from sales of timber of various kinds indicates that a pretty large cubic footage of timber is coming out of the forests at present. It would be wise to examine whether the utilisation of the raw material should be left to private enterprise or whether the State should take part in it. I want to put my cards on the table openly. In 1956, I think, I visited Sweden to get information on the establishment of pulp mills for the utilisation of the vast quantity of timber due to come out of our forests now and in increasing quantity as time goes on. I still hold that, without damaging in any way the pulp mills owned by private enterprise, the State is the only proper authority to establish pulp mills to use that timber.

I want to put this on the records of the House: I should not like to see the day come when, the State having gone to a great deal of trouble and expense, using the taxpayers' money to establish forests, it will be possible for cartels and combines to be private pulp mill owners and the only means of using the products of our forests. In other words, I do not want the forests established by the forestry people and the politicians to become the prey of a ring, an unscrupulous ring, which would take over the timber and give their own price for it—a thief's price—the Minister having no option but to hand it over. While private enterprise and industry might be able to handle our resources of timber, and so on, perhaps it might be no harm to keep in mind the establishment and running of pulp mills by the Minister and the Forestry Section of the Department.

A great silence has fallen over the private planting scheme. That is one branch of afforestation I should like to see going ahead. All concerned are to be highly commended, and every inducement should be held out to encourage small plantings. Even the planting of half a statute acre, or one statute acre, by people with small holdings would be of great benefit. It would be of value as a shelter and in various other ways, apart from beautifying the country. There are many holdings which have an acre or half an acre which is not much use for anything but timber. The Minister might tell us what is happening in that regard.

I am glad to see the Minister taking such an interest in forestry. That is a big improvement since the time when he described my humble efforts as the planting of bushes. Perhaps he can throw his mind back to the time when he used to go around Mayo, having the life of Reilly telling the people I was planting bushes. Now there is no greater forestry enthusiast than he. I should not be surprised if he came down to Mayo in the State car with a big Scotch fir on either side of the car to show that he was leading us——

He may be leading us into N.A.T.O.

I shall lead the Deputy back to Waterford.

Certain things happened in Claremorris a short time ago but perhaps it would be more merciful to draw a veil over the whole thing. As I said, our forestry officials deserve the very greatest credit for the magnificent way in which they have risen to the occasion. It should not be forgotten that the 25,000 acres we are planting each year represent a strip of country a quarter of a mile wide from Nelson's Pillar to Galway Bay. That is no mean achievement. Planting 25,000 acres in bits and scraps all over the country and trying to take into account the areas where there is lack of employment, suitability of the land, representing a ribbon of country a quarter of a mile wide extending from Nelson's Pillar to Galway Bay, in one year is no mean achievement. They have a right to be proud of it and this House and the people of the country have a right to be proud of it.

It is to be assumed that the money asked for by the Minister is required for the purposes set out in his opening statement. We approve of this expenditure. The employment which forestry gives to more than 4,700 men is, naturally, a big advantage to the economy of the country. It is also pleasing to note the recent very welcome improvement in the wage levels of the ordinary worker. In fact, it is regrettable that the improvement was not greater. Having regard to the increases given to other categories of workers, an increase of 7/6d. was rather small. However, it is to be hoped that, in the not too distant future, further adjustments in the wages of forestry workers will take place.

In the course of his statement, the Minister indicated that afforestation is moving along smoothly so far as achieving its target of 25,000 acres per year is concerned, and that for the past three years they have attained their objective of planting 25,000 acres each year. I should like to know from the Minister whether it is likely that that target will be reached in the years to come, because I am doubtful if land for afforestation will become available to that extent. Indeed, I am rather surprised that during the past few years no adjustment in the price of land to be acquired for afforestation has taken place. Having regard to present money values, the maximum price allowed by the Department of £10 per acre is, in my opinion, entirely too small. I am hopeful that when the Minister presents his main Estimate later on in the year, there will be an upward trend in that price level. Everyone knows that land of any reasonable fertility is worth much more than the maximum price of £10 per acre allowed by the Department.

With regard to the acquisition of land, it must be admitted that the Department was rather fortunate in acquiring land cheaply in some districts. I think that a good deal of the land acquired was bought from people who wanted money urgently and had to sell portion of their land in order to get money. I know a number of individuals who had to part with land which they required themselves in order to have some capital. I doubt if in future years we shall be able to buy land for the small prices which the Department paid for it during the past number of years.

As I said, we were bargaining at an advantage. I suppose we were entitled to buy it at the lowest price possible. I do not disagree with the policy that the officials of the Department buy land as cheaply as possible, but, at the same time, we must be fair and just. I am very anxious that the Minister should review the question of the price and increase it. It is surprising how long it takes the Department to do some jobs. The former Minister has commended the Department and its officials for the great work they are doing and I do not want to take from that in any way, but, at the same time, I think they are moving slowly in some ways.

The Minister will appreciate why I have put down Questions in this House during the past seven or eight years about the proposed acquisition of an estate in West Cork. I refer to an estate of more than 820 acres in the Dunmanway district. We have been told by the Minister and by his predecessor, Deputy Blowick, that active measures are being taken to acquire this estate and that it is hoped that acquisition will be effected in the not too distant future. That seems to be the usual reply over the years. In actual fact, the Minister told me in 1960 that the acquisition of this estate would be finalised in the month of August of that year. That is almost two years ago but of course the Minister happened to be wrong because August, 1960, came and August, 1961, came and still there was no progress made in the acquisition of this big estate in Dunmanway. I am rather worried about this because I have had repeated representations from workers in that district who feel that if this land were acquired in the near future, additional employment would be provided for them.

I do not want to interrupt the Deputy but there is nothing in this Supplementary Estimate under the heading "Land Acquisition" and this discussion is out of order.

Members of this House have some difficulty in addressing remarks to the Chair as to the rules of procedure. When did the Minister become Ceann Comhairle or Leas-Cheann Comhairle?

I am making a point of order.

The Minister mentioned no point of order. I do not see why the Minister should intervene. In actual fact, I was just reminding the Minister that——

The Minister is as much entitled to raise a point of order as anyone else.

I thought he was telling you, Sir, how to do your business.

The Minister indicated to the Chair that there was nothing in the Supplementary Estimate for the acquisition of land. If the Deputy wishes to discuss the acquisition of land, he must take some other opportunity to do so because there is no provision for it in this Supplementary Estimate.

Surely the Minister is putting a gag on Deputy Murphy?

It is incidental to this Vote because we are paying money here for afforestation.

It is only what it is actually proposed to spend the money on, and there is no money here for the acquisition of land.

I am sure you must feel very grateful, Sir, to the Minister for Lands for directing you how to do your business.

The Minister did not direct me. He indicated that there was no money in this Estimate for the acquisition of land.

The Chair accepted advice from the Fine Gael benches first and now from the Fianna Fáil benches. I think the Chair should do his own business.


The Deputy will please pass from discussing the acquisition of land because there is no money in the Estimate for the acquisition of land.

I shall pass from it but it is peculiar that other Deputies referred to items not mentioned in this Estimate and there was no question of their right to do so. I suppose it would not have happened in my case, if it had not been for the Minister. He knows not only about land but about everything connected with international matters.

We shall discuss that at the appropriate time, also.

I wonder would it come within the ambit of the Estimate I referred to the system of recruiting workers? Possibly the Minister would say that there is nothing about that here, either, but all that is incidental to this £91,700 we are asked to pass today. It has been mentioned that this money is to improve the rates of wages and other items and I think it is not out of order to comment again, as I have already done on a number of occasions, on the recruitment system operated by the Department of Lands. I have stressed time and again that the employment of workers should be on a fair and impartial basis and that each man is entitled to a fair opportunity of getting any State employment provided in the locality. It was laid down here in relation not only to this Department but to other State Departments, particularly those giving special employment such as the Department of Local Government, Office of Public Works and the Department of Finance, that workers recruited for State employment should be recruited through the labour exchange and that the most deserving applicant in the exchange should get first preference, if he was otherwise suitable. That is a very simple procedure. In other words, say, the man in receipt of the highest unemployment assistance in a particular exchange should be entitled to first preference for any employment provided in that area if he is deemed to be a suitable worker. Of course, the Department of Lands seem to be getting over that by asserting that "so-and-so is not a suitable worker". I am surprised that men whose capacity for work is well above the average and whose entitlement to work, by virtue of the position they hold at the labour exchange— which is quite evident from the fact that they are the highest on the list— have been passed over.

The Minister and his officials should in fairness and justice ensure that whenever employment with the Department becomes available in an area, a fair system of recruiting labour should be applied. By doing so, they will have the goodwill of everyone because if a worker complains that he did not get employment which he thought he should get but it is pointed out to him that the right of those employed in preference to him is greater, then he will be satisfied, but when you have a position obtaining where possibly you have a single man without dependants getting preference over a married man, you are bound to have difficulties and resentment and bound to have trouble for everyone concerned. I am hopeful that for the ensuing year the Department will endeavour to have a fair, just and impartial system of recruitment established.

It is indeed pleasing to note from the Minister's statement that the annual income level has now reached a figure of £585,000. We all hope this figure will increase as the years go by. Members who have addressed the House on this question have mentioned that there are and should be good possibilities of establishing industries based on our afforestation works. I represent a constituency where there is a large acreage of land already planted and, I am sure, a reasonably big acreage available for planting and indeed a large acreage of trees which have matured or are nearing maturity. I wonder then would it be in order to assert that our part of the country would be quite a suitable place to establish an industry based on the products of our forests, in view of the substantial acreage of timber in the Cork South-West constituency. The Minister knows the extent of the acreage in that area and possibly with local co-operation, which I have no doubt would be forthcoming, a good case could be made for establishing an industry based on our forestry products in Cork West. I have no doubt that other parts of the country, particularly the big afforestation centres in the West, could lay similar claims. I hope that will be considered by the Department's advisers.

It is regrettable that the number of people interested in the very desirable work of private planting is insignificant. In Cork we made every effort to try to get people interested in it. I thought the grants made available were reasonable: £20 per acre, £10 payable without delay and £10 deferred payment. Unfortunately, as far as I can judge, the people do not seem to be interested in it. Whether or not increasing the grant would make them interested, I do not know; possibly it would. I can appreciate also the difficulty of finding money to increase all these State payments. However, the Minister should again make it known to everybody that it is his desire that people should avail of the grants available for private planting and become more interested in it. As well as increasing the wealth of the country, private planting could be of great advantage to the individual farmer in that it would have a beautifying effect on the land contiguous to his residence; and I think that we, as the premier assembly of the country, should renew our plea to the people to avail themselves more of these grants.

I conclude by voicing our support of this Supplementary Estimate which should meet with the approval of every Deputy.

I should like to join with the speakers from the other benches in expressing our appreciation of the work of the Minister and his Department which enhances the beauty of our country and increases the productivity of land that in the past was very infertile. There is, however, some criticism now that the portions of the land being taken could be more usefully employed in rough grazing and so on. That is a matter on which the Department's officials will, no doubt, exercise their own judgment. At the same time, we cannot overlook the fact that along many of our roadside glens there are stretches of land which were denuded of trees during the last war, and, indeed, the previous wars and that have never been replanted. They are growing the bushes to which Deputy Blowick referred a while ago.

There is also a criticism that the prices being offered now are not in keeping with present circumstances and that the land being taken is somewhat more fertile than when lower prices were being offered. That may be so. I am sure that, as time goes on, the Department will take cognisance of these changing factors.

Another criticism is that too many trees of the same variety are being planted, the variation of fir and so on. These trees have very rapid growth, and I think the Department were very wise in planting a very large proportion of them in their early programme. But now there is a feeling that it would be wise to consider the matter anew and to plant other trees for which a market may be available. I refer especially to ash for hurleys for our national pastime in the schools and various clubs throughout the country. When the late Deputy Seán Moylan was Minister, a big proportion of ash was planted for that purpose. We must consider that the market is available and that for the root and two or three feet above it in respect of each portion shaped into a hurley, 10/- or 12/- is paid. These hurleys are very expensive. The rest of these useful trees is then available for other commercial purposes. I would ask the Minister to see to it, particularly in those counties where hurling is extensively played, that a good proportion of ash trees would be planted.

Taken generally, the Department is now dealing more expeditiously with land offered for afforestation. In the past—and I presume at present as well—there have been difficulties of title and other matters of that kind, which may have impeded the Department in the acquisition of suitable land. At the same time, I think we can all be satisfied that the Department is working very efficiently, that it has come up to a good average of planting and that it is keeping in mind the establishment of industries which will avail of the clearing of the forests and the trees when they come to maturity —all to the general advantage of our national economy.

Arising out of the various points raised here by the different speakers, if there is any criticism at all, I think it is of the slowness of the programme. I think we should have reached the target of 25,000 acres at least 20 years ago. Had we done so, we would have stopped the drain of population from the backward areas. If we had followed an intensive programme of forestry away back in 1925, or even in the 30's, we would have reached the stage now when it would not have been necessary for our population to take to the emigrant ship. After all the work put into this gigantic programme, any suggestion that we should hand over forestry to private interests must be opposed with all the force possible. We can see from the response from private interests to appeals to plant trees that they have no great interest in that regard at present. You cannot make commercial interests become interested in planting trees because of the long time they have to wait for a return from the money invested. Certainly, the State are the only people equipped and if there were private interests who could deal with the matter, you would still have the State exploiting it and you would be only running two enterprises against each other for timber production.

I am very happy to note that in my county people in mountain holdings are prepared to hand over tracts of higher mountain regions from which, heretofore, they had very low returns. They now see the advantage of getting employment for two or three men out of the house and the added benefit of getting a rather reasonable return in wages. They are now prepared to hand over holdings which, heretofore, they held on to.

I agree with the previous speakers who said that we should now begin to look to the time when we should be able to pay a bit more for the land we acquire in view of the rising valuation of everything. That would, as well, bring more of the land that we need into afforestation. However, I do not agree that we should hand over any land that we have acquired. The State should, in my view, hold on to the land they have for all time. It gives continuous employment in the areas concerned and can be looked upon as a little industry in the rural areas where such enterprises are so necessary.

One Deputy raised the point of the possibility of selling timber in smaller lots. I do not think the Department should have any great difficulty about offering trees in small parcels of 250 and certainly under 500. It would give a chance to the smaller man in the area concerned to avail of this timber. The Department are to be congratulated on the efforts they have put into this excellent scheme of reafforestation and we can only hope they will keep on with the good and useful work. In a short number of years we should not only be able to meet our entire requirements but possibly have a good quantity available for export.

As regards the type of trees most suitable for planting in this country, it is well known that we can successfully grow only a number of varieties and still get a return within a reasonable time. Some trees do not thrive so well here. The spruce variety seems to be the most suitable and the quickest coming to hand. I should like to repeat, in conclusion, that this is a very good industry and to point out that in my own county, at least, there will be considerable parcels of land becoming available in the higher mountain regions. With the acquisition of these we can look forward to the day when we shall see large tracts coming in to give valuable employment to people living in poor holdings who could not hold out except for the availability of some form of employment.

I agree with some of the Deputies who spoke but certain points were made with which I do not agree. One thing we must admit is that the Forestry Branch are doing really good work all over the country and, at the same time, giving much needed continuous employment to a number of men. The main problem that arises in my constituency of Sligo-Leitrim is in connection with the acquisition of good land for forestry beside small, reasonably good holdings which turn out to be uneconomic because of their size. Such farmers would be very grateful if the Forestry Branch could see their way to give them even a portion of that good land, lying beside the uneconomic holdings to which I refer. It would enormously improve the value of and the returns from such holdings.

On many occasions I have made representations to the Forestry Branch on behalf of this type of person but I have never met with any success. If we are sincere in our efforts to help the small farmers it would be good policy, in cases where parcels of good land were acquired, to hand over portions of that good land to small farmers living on uneconomic holdings nearby. I have in mind instances of the existence of this problem in Kiltyclogher and elsewhere.

The Deputy is discussing general policy on this Vote.

There is nothing more important to a Deputy than his own constituency.

Yes, but relevancy is something which is important also. The only things that may be discussed on this Supplementary Estimate are the matters in the White Paper. General policy may be discussed only on the main Estimate.

I do not know what the position is now but last year or the year before I was told there was a considerable amount of timber lying in the woods, that there was a set price laid on it and that one could not buy it below that price. I was told that, consequently, most of that timber rotted. To my mind, in an area where timber could be used profitably, the Forestry Branch should be disposed to sell any such timber at whatever price they could get it for rather than let it decay. Recently, a circular was sent to the Leitrim County Committee of Agriculture saying that the Department would always consider representations about particular persons or cases. I would ask the Minister to see that the suggestion in that circular is carried out particularly, as I mentioned already, in the case of small farmers living beside parcels of good land acquired by the Forestry Branch.

I just want to say that the Forestry Branch are doing trojan work throughout the country. Already, much of the wastelands and bare mountain tops have become well covered with forests. Such forests were removed in olden days by alien Governments. It is heartening to see the success being achieved in this sideline to the country's economy. We have in the Forestry Branch an excellent body of skilled workers from the very top down to the lowest paid manual labourer. The suggestion made that the Forestry Branch would hand over to local authorities or some other bodies strips and parcels of plantations would, if adopted, be a retrograde step because I feel that the care of forests in their infancy, and, indeed, until they become mature, is a job for skilled personnel. Away back years ago, when plantations were set, very often sufficient attention was not given to the subsequent care of the trees and, after 60 or 70 years' growth, they failed.

Some reference has been made to the acquisition of land. Indeed, some people seem to be rather worried that we will reach the stage of acquiring and planting 25,000 acres per year; they may possibly be under the mistaken impression that, at that rate of planting, the 12,000,000 acres of arable land in the country will be put under trees. It would take a very long time for even half that acreage to be planted.

There should be no fear whatever that the rate of planting is too rapid.

It must be appreciated, too, that afforestation gives employment directly and, indirectly, in the subsidiary industries deriving from it. However, in the mountainous areas in the west, and in the backward districts where there is poor land, the Department of Agriculture has in recent years been providing fencing grants; these grants enable sheep farmers now to pen their sheep and not have them roaming at will over the vast commonages. This may possibly lead to more difficulty in the Forestry Branch acquiring more land.

I suggest that in some of these areas it might, perhaps, be possible for the Forestry Branch to work out a scheme of strip plantations, running, if you like, like ladders to the top of the mountain, with sheep grazing in between. I do not know how feasible that would be, but it could be tried. It would help not alone the small farmer in ensuring his sheep were properly fenced but it would also provide shelter and protection and improve the grasslands on which the sheep graze. That is something the Minister might consider in the light of the fact that he is now coming to the target of 25,000 acres per year; he might now examine the position in more detail and see what further improvements can be made from the point of view of afforestation in general.

Someone referred to the selection of different types of trees. Selection is a very important factor now. There are quick-growing trees which are used in the chipboard and pulping factories. It may be essential now for the Forestry Branch to concentrate on certain types of trees in areas adjacent to these factories to ensure an ample supply of chipboard. There is, I know, a growing demand for Christmas trees. I do not know how the Forestry Branch handles that. I think there is a fair return. If thinnings are used to supply Christmas trees, that should represent a saving.

So far as the overall picture is concerned, it is a very rosy and a very bright one. Indeed the Minister and his Department, and all concerned, deserve the thanks and congratulation of the nation for putting our country once more under trees, returning it to some semblance of the picture it presented in bygone days when vast forests covered the land, and putting it in a position in which it can supply not only home needs but actually enter competitively into the export market.

Any money spent on the extension of afforestation and the employment of forestry workers is money well spent. Judging by the debate today, it would appear more or less that all the experts in forestry, and in everything else, of course, are to be found amongst the Opposition Parties. It is rather strange that the people have not found that out in the past 30 years and put them into power to implement the schemes they say they would implement if they were in power.

I am anxious that the Minister should get on with the schemes as rapidly as possible. At the same time, I do not like unfair criticism, and I want to be fair to the Minister. No matter how little he did, he would still be doing more than some of those who went before him. I want to ask him now to turn his mind to the west where, so far as I know, there is a problem from the point of view of acquiring substantial tracts of land. Although the Minister's experts may tell me trees will not grow in the west, it is remarkable that they grew there in the past, long before any of us were born and long before many of our ancestors were born. If they grew there then, I see no reason why they should not grow there now. It is strange to read the views of these experts and to be told that the Forestry Branch have no use for lands in certain areas in Mayo, for instance. I do not know on what facts they base these views because, as one travels through the wildest areas in Mayo and looks at any place where an Englishman or a foreigner lived, one sees plenty of trees. It is strange that trees do not grow around the Irishman's house. The only conclusion I can come to is that they were not sown to grow. Surely trees are not so selective in their attitude that they would grow around the Englishman's house and refuse to grow around the Irishman's house. But that seems to be the fact.

I would ask the Minister when he is travelling not only through his own constituency but mine, which adjoins it, to take that fact into consideration, because it is a fact, no matter what the experts may say. The facts are there and the expert view does not appear to be related to the facts. Indeed, we find that the man who is regarded as an expert on bogs is a man who came from far away from the bog. I am afraid it is the same with regard to trees. But the Minister will see trees growing in the west where they were planted to grow. The only question that arises is that of protecting them from sheep and cattle, or other animals. There can be no question at all that, if they are planted, they will grow. If the Minister takes over land in that area, he will provide considerable employment—he will have no trouble in acquiring land—and every year of growth means more employment, and more employment means keeping more people off the emigrant ship. Any assistance I can give the Minister in any way in acquiring land will be gladly given.

I do not think there is any great dispute about the price of land in the area I represent. We usually succeed in solving these problems, as the Minister will find out if he examines into the activities of Bord na Móna and the grassmeal company. I should like him to consider that, despite the acreage taken over already, there are still tens of thousands of acres there to be acquired.

The acquisition of land does not arise on this Supplementary Estimate.

I agree. I shall not pursue the point any further, but I would ask the Minister to try to give as much employment as he can to workers in the area. In the State forests in the Newport area and in the Glenamoy experimental station, he has a good example of what can be done even on the worst land in that area. I ask him to leave no stone unturned in seeking to put as many people as possible into employment in the west.

Since this is a Supplementary Estimate, I propose to be brief. There is one matter I wish to bring to the notice of the Minister in connection with subhead G.2, forestry development. First of all, I should like to say that a certain situation has arisen in my constituency in connection with forestry development and I should like to bring it to the notice of this House. In west Roscommon, we have a large number of very small holdings ranging from £3 to £7 valuation. In one area alone in west Roscommon, Drumfad, there are approximately 300 holdings under £5 valuation. To a man in the midlands or the south of Ireland, that valuation must seem very small indeed. I am sure it would be the view of farmers in other parts of the country, indeed even in the west, that it would be an impossibility for any smallholder in those areas to eke out an existence not to mind give the normal comforts or amenities to his family.

A great deal of the land in that locality was, I thought over the years, suitable for afforestation. After repeated urgings on my part to the Forestry Section, they decided to start forestry operations in that locality. Naturally enough, in the initial stages, it was difficult to get the consent of the smallholders to part with their precious little bit of land. It took many efforts on the part of the local clergymen and other interested persons to persuade the people that afforestation would be of long-term benefit to their families, in addition to giving much needed employment to them in the present. As a result, a certain amount of land was made available over the past few years for afforestation purposes.

The Forestry Section co-operated excellently with the local people in the planting arrangements and a nice green blanket of forestry is beginning to stretch in that very desolate and poor area. The local people are now beginning to realise that this will be of immense benefit to them. One of the reasons why the local people were persuaded to part with their land was that it would mean employment for them. When I visited that area last week, I checked on the figures in the exchanges and there were over 100 men drawing unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit. Some of those men are in the Minister's county of Mayo. Of that number of 100, I should say that 60 per cent. are married men with families ranging from one to six or seven children living on those holdings of £4 to £5 valuation.

On the very same day as I checked on the number drawing social welfare benefits, I found the Forestry Section had moved large machines into the locality to carry out the initial preparation for planting. I am not in any way opposed to the idea of machinery being used when it is an economic proposition and when it does not displace labour in the manner in which it is intended to displace it in this desolate, neglected area. On the one hand, the Department of Social Welfare paid out last week, perhaps, £150 to enable families in that area to keep body and soul together. On the other hand, the Forestry Section have brought their whole drainage machinery, these huge juggernauts, into a locality where there is plenty of labour available at a reasonable rate. I want an undertaking from the Minister before this discussion concludes that those machines will be withdrawn forthwith.

Up to the present in that area, 290 acres, approximately, have been planted. The ground has been prepared by labour; the planting was done by labour. It was only in the extreme corner of one area, a rocky spot, that a machine was used. If it was possible to carry out this afforestation programme up to a week ago by utilising local labour, I cannot understand why this decision was taken to move in the machinery. I inspected the locality last week and found that the machinery is now moving into an area which was used for tillage up to four or five years ago, an area where there is no justification whatever for using machines. Somebody may say that machines are more efficient than manual labour for drainage purposes. I do not think so, in areas such as this. Proper hand work with experienced supervisors has produced excellent results all over the country and it has produced excellent results in the Cloonfad area up to last week.

I hope the forestry people will expand in this area in a big way. However, the Minister knows and all the Ministers who were ever in office know that one of the essentials for afforestation is the goodwill of the people in the locality. If there is no goodwill, there will be no forestry. I am urging the Minister to put on his thinking cap in regard to this matter. He comes himself from an area where holdings are small and from which there has been a great deal of emigration. I am sure he is anxious to see things done efficiently and at the same time, to see that work is given to the people in the locality. There will not be goodwill if there are 30 or 40 men standing outside the barracks on a Wednesday or Thursday to sign on and seeing machinery passing by them going up to do the work which they should be doing and which they are anxious to do.

I do not want to be too hard or to go to the extent of saying the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing but the Department of Social Welfare are paying out funds where there is no work available while the Forestry Section is sending in machinery where labour is available. I will not accept from the Minister any suggestion that I am living in the past when I say machinery in a locality such as this is not necessary. I am as anxious as anyone to see efficiency and smooth operations in forestry but it does not take a lot of brains to realise that using machinery in an area where first-class labour is available is non-sensical.

This problem can be solved very easily by continuing the methods which are in operation even today. Those machines have not been assembled with their drainage equipment yet. That would be a simple solution and it would meet with the goodwill of all the people in the locality and would mean greater co-operation in the future in regard to making plenty of land available. I urge upon the Minister to tell the Forestry Section to take out these machines straight away.

On afforestation generally, I want to reiterate what I have said here for years, that money spent on afforestation is well spent. It was never more necessary than now. It was never more necessary than now to plant and to increase the rate of planting from the present 25,000 acres, to get forestry operations going in a far bigger way for this reason, that if we are exposed to the harsh wind of competition from European countries in the areas where smallholders are at present, they will be wiped out unless there is a sideline for them. There is no greater safeguard for their security on a small holding than the development of a good afforestation programme in the vicinity. Apart from stabilising the population in the smaller holdings, the future benefits to the State will be immense. Any time the Minister comes into this House seeking sanction for further expenditure on afforestation, he can take it that he will have my goodwill and assistance.

We all welcome the wonderful advance that has been made in afforestation. To have reached the 25,000 acre mark is a great achievement having regard to all the snags that the Minister, his predecessors and the Department had to overcome. The acquisition of land for afforestation in various parts of the country presented difficulties. A farmer who had grazing rights on mountains and other places, naturally, did not want to lose those rights, did not want to lose his livelihood. All these considerations had to be borne in mind. Being a democratic State, the rights of the individual could not be interfered with. Many difficulties have been overcome and wonderful progress has been made and will continue to be made. The State has succeeded in doing a good job and I have no doubt that even greater progress will be made in future.

I have often in this House appealed to small farmers and large farmers that in the national interest they should become more tree conscious. If a farmer planted only one tree near his home every year our people would come to love trees more. Deputy Leneghan said that only certain people in Mayo had trees around their homes, that the Forestry Section had stated that this part of the country was not suitable for trees. It is up to the people of the Deputy's constituency to prove to the Forestry Section that they can grow trees. Our people should become more tree conscious. In my own constituency of County Dublin, where the land is bad and poor, I have tried to encourage people, especially those living in South County Dublin, to grow at least a shelter belt around their homes.

Where is this bad land in County Dublin?

I should like to take this opportunity to appeal to our people to become more tree conscious and to plant trees wherever possible and, where feasible, to grow a shelter belt near their homes. In that way they would be beautifying the country and doing a great national service. They would show the Minister and his Department and the nation that they regarded afforestation as a great national asset. I hope the people will give every encouragement to the Minister in charge of forestry at the moment. I wish him luck.

My speech will be short because Deputy Leneghan has said everything that I had intended to say. I congratulate the Minister on the good work he is doing in connection with forestry but I am disappointed with the amount of land in North Mayo that has not been attended to. I refer particularly to the Erris, Achill, Curraun and Ballycroy areas. These are poor areas comprising infertile land and bog and they are areas where there is no employment. The Minister might concentrate on getting something done in these areas. They cannot be so unsuitable. As Deputy Leneghan has pointed out, trees have grown around houses in various parts of this area. The Minister should try to get more planting done in those areas. Afforestation is the only source of employment available for those areas. I am quite sure that trees will grow there. As Deputy Leneghan has pointed out, trees have been grown in valleys and around houses and I am sure it will be possible to grow trees in this area.

The Minister might consider acquiring compulsory powers to take over land such as commonage. In the areas that I have mentioned commonage exists to a considerable extent on which 30 or 40 people may have commonage rights. Some of these people have gone away and cannot be traced and acquisition is held up. Where there is difficulty in tracing the owners and where the owners have left the place the Minister should use compulsory powers to take over the land.

The question of the acquisition of land would arise relevantly on the main Estimate. It does not arise on this Supplementary Estimate.

The planting of trees in the exposed areas of North Mayo would confer great benefit on the area. It would add to the beauty of the area and would create employment there.

I should like to say a word on this Supplementary Estimate in relation to a few points which concern me as a representative of one of the congested areas in which there is a good deal of forestry activity at the moment, Donegal. The Minister is to be congratulated on the overall success of afforestation in the country as a whole. As previous speakers have pointed out, we have now reached the stage where Deputies representing rural areas find representations coming from a direction different from that in the past. I remember when all my efforts were directed towards getting the Forestry Section of the Department of Lands to move in and acquire lands in order to get suitable blocks for afforestation purposes. Now we frequently have representations deploring the acquisition of land which is required for sheep grazing or other purposes. That is an indication that the afforestation programme is moving sufficiently rapidly to justify all the hopes centred in it at the beginning. We have reached the stage when the Minister should take a second look before deciding to acquire large tracts in areas where such acquisition might create hardship although the land may not be immediately necessary for productive purposes.

There should be more flexibility in the Department's attitude towards the question of exchange. It may be possible to effect an exchange of a piece of rough grazing for a more fertile parcel of pasture land which is being taken over by the Department. It may not be entirely the function of the Forestry Section but they could perform a very useful service by paying a little more attention to assisting persons who are anxious to retain their holdings and to improve them. That could be done by giving the more fertile parcels included in the land being acquired in exchange for rougher grazing in the adjoining tenant's holding which was not being acquired. In that way, I feel they would not merely be doing a good job towards afforestation but would also be assisting towards making better holdings for the adjoining tenants. I do not think it could be levelled against them as a general complaint that they acquire land in competition with local purchasers. My experience is that they are reasonably flexible in the matter of surrendering holdings they are about to acquire, if they have not gone too far in the matter of acquisition.

Sometimes, local would-be purchasers of land are prone to hang around to see what price the Forestry people are prepared to offer. They then move in and offer a few pounds more, in the hope of having the market price fixed, and acquire the holding. For that reason, I think the Forestry people are inclined to be circumspect and sometimes to suspect the bona fides of purchasers of that kind. There are many genuine cases where local holdings might be acquired by existing tenants anxious to augment their holdings or to improve them by acquiring part of holdings sold to Forestry. I am sure the Minister would favourably consider allowing a little more flexibility in the matter of permitting the Forestry Section to be ready to exchange small parcels of suitable land with adjoining tenants who wish to improve their own holding.

In the matter of employment on parcels of afforestation land dotted throughout the country, in the winter time, when unemployment is highest, the Forestry Section should concentrate on having the fullest possible employment during that period. Sometimes I feel disappointment in relation to areas where land is taken over and the local unemployed expect that a considerable amount of employment will be available quickly. I appreciate that certain development work has to be done. I appreciate that the squads engaged in the initial operations must, of necessity, be rather small. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the maximum numbers are employed during the winter season when unemployment is at its height. I trust that the development of forestry will be so arranged as to be able to consume the greatest possible number of unemployed at that particular period. It is not always possible to do that because certain work has to be done in suitable season, particularly during the planting season.

I have often felt that if maximum employment were given on all these different afforestation schemes throughout the country during the winter time, it would go a long way towards absorbing the surplus unemployed, the list of whom is at its highest peak in the winter. In that way, forestry would contribute a great deal to the solution of unemployment in the rural areas at a time when it is most needed.

I want to stress particularly the point regarding the swapping of suitable pieces of fertile land for less suitable portions that existing tenants may like to have carried out. Anything the afforestation people can do in that respect would be very well worth considering and would be a very good job, indeed.

I can understand the anxiety of Deputies, particularly from the west, in trying to get the Forestry people interested in their part of the country. With increased activity on the part of the Forestry Section, we in Wicklow have now met another problem. We have been the pioneer county in afforestation. We now find ourselves with a number of forest centres which cannot expand any further because the land is not readily available. In recent years, numbers of men have been laid off because the plantable reserve is not there.

I also know that due to the increase in activities and the increase in the planting rate, there has been a change of policy in the Department, particularly with regard to nurseries. Where, formerly, we had five- or ten-acre nurseries in most forestry centres, I understand the policy now is to have larger nurseries in the 50- and 60-acre bracket. I strongly urge on the Minister that, if at all possible, in areas where plantable land is not available and where there is a good forestry tradition, we should try to acquire land suitable for nursery purposes so that the labour dispensed with, if forestry land is not available, could usefully be employed in such nurseries. I understand that the running of these nurseries is highly technical. In all parts of County Wicklow, we have men with years and years of experience of that work. It is a pity that their services should be dispensed with and that the Department should lose the years of experience that have been gained in County Wicklow in that field.

I have in mind my own part of the county, South Wicklow, an area between Ballinglen and Aughrim centres. A large-scale nursery would certainly solve the problem down there. If such a nursery were established, I have no doubt that there would be, ready-made there, skilled labour, with years of experience in that field, which would make a nursery of that kind economic. I realise that the Minister has other problems with regard to the acquisition of land in other parts of the country. However, if a serious effort were made to establish a number of nurseries in County Wicklow, in particular, it would help to solve our forestry problems and the problems we are likely to be confronted with in the future.

I should like, in the first instance, to express my appreciation generally to the House for the way in which the Supplementary Estimate has been received and to express my thanks on my own behalf and on behalf of my staff for the references that have been made generally to the work of the Forestry Division. While it is true that the debate on this Supplementary Estimate has largely centred around increases of wages under the different headings, many matters of interest have been raised, some of which might more appropriately have been raised on the general Estimate. So far as I can reasonably cover the matters raised, I shall do so.

Deputy Esmonde was anxious, and this point was made by others, to know what our policy was as far as the planting programme was concerned and whether the target of 25,000 acres a year was the ne plus ultra of our aims. I do not wish to put any limit on planting but let me, from my experience and from what I know the position to be, sound a note of warning. I think that if we are to maintain a steady rate of planting of 25,000 acres a year over even the next ten years, we shall be doing extremely well.

We are planting now at the highest rate in ratio to our population of any country in Europe. However, just as in the Land Commission, the easiest portions of our country to come into the forestry machinery have already been planted and the longer we go on, the more difficult it will be to keep the forestry machine geared to meet the national programme. The average size of the plots coming in for afforestation are getting smaller year by year. That is not peculiar to this country but the House will realise the immense amount of land necessary to maintain a programme of 25,000 acres per annum and at the same time, to maintain the desirable planting reserve. The House will appreciate the very big effort required to maintain that programme.

It is true that in certain areas which were not traditional forestry areas, there is more forestry activity now. Deputy Leneghan mentioned North Mayo and the west. The work on forestry in recent years has been more and more towards the west and last year approximately 44 per cent. of the total programme took place west of the Shannon. There is probably a greater potential in the west of what has come to be regarded as forestry land, mountainous and other areas formerly regarded as unplantable. It is hoped to intensify the tapping of these areas as time goes on. Notwithstanding that potential, I want to say that from the indications before us, we shall be doing extremely well if we are able to maintain steady progress at a planting rate of 25,000 acres per annum.

I know that Deputy Esmonde has his own view on the type of land that will be planted. I want to make clear to the House that the Forestry Division do not plant agricultural land. Where a substantial acreage of land is taken over, there is an assessment between the Forestry Division and the Land Commission and if a portion of the land taken over is agricultural land, it is handed over to the Land Commission. I do not think the view held by Deputy Esmonde on this issue is generally shared by Deputies. As far as his view about State ownership of forestry is concerned, I am quite satisfied that my view that this is a job that can be done only by the State is generally shared.

There are a number of national projects that can be undertaken only by the State and everyone is now satisfied that afforestation is one of them. Private enterprise here has not done very well as far as afforestation is concerned. That is partly due to our general makeup of farm construction. We have not, as they have in Britain, very many large estates left which comprise large amounts of woodland. We have not that general pattern here and while we have urged private planting, the amount carried out has been remarkably small.

When speaking of private planting, let me say that although progress in that respect was very small before we started the intensified campaign, there has been an increase from approximately 500 acres per annum to an average of over 1,000 acres now. On paper, that is an increase of 100 per cent. but it is really infinitesimal compared with the national programme. The small blocks of land that are available to the private planter can never be dealt with by the Forestry Department. These are the areas that we have been trying to get the owners to plant.

The intensified campaign has not only made our people more forestry-minded but it has a healthy effect in inducing co-operation in getting land for the State Forestry Department, in getting the co-operation of the various local bodies and other parties to persuade common owners to come together and offer comparatively large tracts of land to the State and, I am still confident that, with the grants that are available in the private sector, this increase will continue and that throughout the various counties it will show different results as the time goes on.

The point was made by some Deputies that in selling timber at the forests, the small man is not catered for. This, in the main, is not correct. There are local arrangements whereby farmers can be supplied at the local forestry centres. Where it is feasible, it is the endeavour of the Department to make small lots available. In some cases, it is not possible to do this where there are substantial stands of timber coming to maturity and being knocked down. There it is more desirable that one firm should deal with the lot. It is most desirable from the Department's point of view and from the economic point of view that the one firm, preferably an experienced one, should deal with the lot, both from the point of view of not doing damage and also of living up to their contracts. Generally speaking, I am assured that the small demands from the man who wants small lots are met and that he gets his opportunity to purchase. If there is any particular case or complaint on this issue and if it is brought to my notice, I shall try to have it dealt with.

Deputy Blowick and some other Deputies made suggestions about the Department going more into the commercial or manufacturing side of the business. I do not share their views except where such a procedure might prove necessary in the national interest. Up to now, private enterprise seems to be able to deal with the output of our forests. I think they will be in a better position to do so and to plan ahead very shortly because we have been working on a survey which was long overdue to know exactly what the potential output will be. This survey is in course of preparation. The field work has been done and we hope in a very short time to be able to forecast the output of different types of timber say in three years, five years, seven years and so on. This information will be available to private enterprise and, as in other countries, I have no doubt but every confidence that people experienced in the business will gear themselves for the job of dealing with the potential output we expect as our forests mature.

In fact, the chipboard development has been based and started on the potential of thinnings coming from our forests and that type of hardboard industry, I am satisfied, will be developed to meet the output and we shall be able to give a fairly accurate estimate of what the output will be as the years go on. Should it transpire that any particular section of the output is not marketable here, then the Department would have to consider what should be done in those circumstances but where private enterprise is able, economically, to handle the output from the forests, I think that job should be left to private enterprise.

I was asked by Deputy Blowick to state the cubic footage now coming from our forests. Taking it all in all over the last year, the approximate cubic footage sold was 4.3 million.

As far as going away from State forestry here is concerned, some suggestions were made that forestry should be handed over to some board or other organisation but I think we all appreciate that we have now gone beyond the point of no return in this matter and that the only people geared to deal with national forestry in the large way in which it is now being handled are the State organistion that we have.

Deputy Blowick suggested that I was very unfair to him some years ago in talking about him planting bushes and that I was antagonistic to forestry. That is simply not true. I criticised Deputy Blowick for pretending to be engaged in afforestation when, in fact, he was only buying rabbit wire. The figures of the national programme under his direction show that in 1948-49 the acreage planted was 7,736; in the following year it was 7,393 and it was only in 1950-51 that it went up to 9,300 acres. There is some difference between that and the 25,000 acres of planting that is being achieved now over a number of years.

You have not spoken of 1954, 1955 or 1956.

I have the figures—

Do not be trying to put your finger in people's eyes.

——and they have been put on the records of the House.

There was more forestry planting in Deputy Blowick's day than in the 30 years of your Party's administration.

There was more bluff in Deputy Blowick's day than it was ever attempted to put over at any other time——

Try to do the job and cut out the blather.

——by pretending the approach to the work that should have been done on national afforestation was being made by Deputy Blowick when he was there. How much of that was his fault and how much was due to the lack of finance from his colleagues at the time is now a matter of history.

Would you consider me impolite if I said "blatherskite"?

I accept that from the Deputy because he is an expert in that field.

That kind of tripe cuts no ice.

Deputy Murphy suggests that wages should be adjusted. They have been adjusted from time to time. Under the Forestry Division practically all workers are members of trade unions and I think this matter should be left to the unions concerned who are quite capable of dealing with it. They are in negotiation on these issues with my Department at present.

When Deputies say that the price of land acquired for forestry purposes is too low, let them remember that in the vast majority of cases the transactions are voluntary. Practically 99 per cent. of the acquisitions have been on that basis and the people who are selling the type of land coming to the Forestry Division are, in my view, the best judges of their own business. This is a costly operation from the State's point of view and the economics of the whole question must be considered. Of course the price of land is one of the fundamentals in assessing the whole forestry programme and its expenses.

It is correct to say that in some places there has been some slowness on the acquisition side. The reason for that is very simply the fact that the Department was not geared for the job and the programme now being carried out and which has been carried out for some years past. There was, I know, a time-lag between inspections and offers in certain areas. That is now being eliminated and the complaints of time-lags of two or three years between offers and acceptances will, I hope, now be a thing of the past.

In some cases, it is true that there was also a considerable time-lag in the acquisition machine on the title side. We have endeavoured to clear up that bottleneck also, and in commonages where small amounts are involved, a very simple procedure is prescribed. The Chief State Solicitor has now been directed to dispense with the charge on equities in dealing with titles of this kind, and to accept statutory declarations as to occupancy over a short period of years. I am now satisfied that that bottleneck has been relieved on the title side, and that the long and frustrating delays that formerly occurred in their elaborate investigations of title, where comparatively insignificant sums of money were concerned, have been dispensed with. This also will have an overall effect in quickening the acquisition machine, and that is very necessary in view of the tremendous amount of land that now must come in, in order to maintain the national programme.

I cannot accept what Deputy Murphy had to say about the employment of forestry workers. In forestry, as in every other business, the forester must be allowed to exercise his discretion to accept what he considers the most suitable type of worker. I know that we all should like to see a system whereby the man with the highest rate of unemployment assistance is taken on first but sometimes, unfortunately, it turns out that he may not be the most suitable type of worker. That can happen.

I believe, however, that, in the main, there is satisfaction with the method of employment. There will be the odd case where hardship may occur, but, generally speaking, they try at least to take the men from the highest dole level from the employment exchange. If they find them satisfactory, they try to maintain them, just like in every other type of business or undertaking but if, after trial, men are found to be unsuitable, and if the labour force is being reduced, the people with the highest output or the best workers are naturally kept on. Indeed, since the incentive bonus scheme was adopted, this system is more intensified because men now just are not prepared to carry what I would call an inefficient man on their team. It affects their earnings as a whole, and they themselves more or less select the gang to work with them, once they are established at a forest.

On the question of employment, it has been mentioned here, although some cases may create hardship, that it is desirable that constant employment should be provided for a certain labour force. I think it is undesirable, if it can at all be avoided, that there should be perhaps 50 men working a forest for four or five months, and then a lot of them laid off. It is far better by planting planning and work preparation planning to have constant and continuous employment for a force of perhaps one-third or one-half the number.

It is also true that in this work the men acquire skills as they go ahead and the best opportunity and the best prospects of providing more constant and continuous employment are for the Department to endeavour to build up a large plantable reserve that allows them to plan ahead. That is good economics and it is good for continuity of employment. I believe that if we are to get to the stage whereat we shall have a reasonable plantable reserve, there will probably be less complaints such as we have in the House from time to time about letting off men in particular areas. Of course, men cannot be kept on if they cannot be gainfully employed in forestry, as in any other business.

The question of the quality of land was also raised by Deputy MacCarthy. I think I have already dealt with that matter. I have not, however, dealt with the question raised by that Deputy, and a number of others, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach, that is, the question of pressure on the Forestry Section to give bits and pieces of land to local farmers. This is a question on which I have received a considerable amount of representation, and about which I have been under a certain amount of pressure since I came into the Department.

Let me make it clear that, generally speaking, it is not the job of the Forestry Section to relieve congestion, That is the job of the Land Commission. While it is natural to expect that where a State Department has land in any particular area, if some of it adjoins the land of local farmers, they would be anxious to get it, I believe, however, that is a trend which must be generally resisted by my Department. It is, as I have said, difficult to maintain the intake of land which is needed for the national programme. I have also said that when a considerable block of land comes to the Forestry Section, there is an assessment of that land between the Land Commission and the Forestry Section as to its uses, and the agricultural portion is invariably given to the Land Commission.

There is another aspect of this matter which may not occur to Deputies, that is, the question of forestry management. I know it would be nice, and possibly handy, for some local farmer to get a right of way across forestry property or, as has been sometimes put to me, to give a piece on the side of a hill to a local farmer which he considers arable by his standards and which he says he needs badly, and that this would do a particular job for him; but technically forestry cannot be managed in that patchwork way. There are many difficulties; there are trespass difficulties, questions of ingress and egress; and there is the fire hazard that arises if that practice is indulged in. Practically speaking, it is a practice that must be discouraged and resisted by the Forestry Division. I want to make that quite clear, while, at the same time, saying that where there is any sizeable portion of land taken in, the arable portion is handed over to the Land Commission where there is any question of local congestion.

Deputy MacCarthy also made the point that too many trees of the same variety are being planted. That, perhaps, was inevitable in our circumstances and particularly as certain types of pine, pinus contortus, and sitka spruce of certain species, are suited to our land and climate. It was also, I am sure, necessary for the Forestry Division to consider the economics of the matter and at least to establish something that would give a return in a reasonable time for the vast amount of money from the tax-payer that is invested in this business.

I agree, however, that we are in a position to take another look at the matter now and outside the question of amenity planting, my Department are considering, where suitable locations are available, the planting of some hardwoods. It is not, in fact, correct to state that hurleys have been forgotten. There have been ash plantations specifically to meet the demand by the people interested in having a supply of hurleys available. Indeed, more ash has been planted over the past few years than has been the case for a number of years. We are having another look at the feasibility of planting commercial hardwoods. The time of their return would of course be much longer but we shall now be in a position, considering the amount of the other species planted, to strike a reasonable national balance.

Deputy Dolan made a very interesting point in connection with the planting of mountain areas. He is of the view that the new fencing grants available from the Department of Agriculture may make it more difficult for my Department to get land in these areas. I feel that he has some logic in it and indeed I have already had the experience of people being reluctant to hand over to the Forestry Division land which they otherwise would hand over because there is now the possibility of fencing off their neighbour's sheep.

Let me make it clear that both sheep raising and afforestation have successfully gone hand in hand elsewhere. The Crofters Commission in Scotland have been particularly successful in this line of procedure. Deputy Dolan referred to this as strip planting but they have found in Scotland that in the mountainous areas where they have handed over suitable and strategically placed strips of that type of land to the Crofters Commission for afforestation and to the British Forestry Commission, the farmers or crofters concerned were able in some cases to quadruple the number of sheep they were able to run on these ranges, not-withstanding the decreased amount of run available.

Our people should take a lesson from what has been achieved there and I believe that if the grazing farmers in mountainous areas realise these possibilities, they will not fear the Forestry Division getting interested in their lands. Rather would they be inclined to co-operate because everything I have learned about this matter indicates that forestry in these areas will not alone be good for the Forestry Division but good also for the sheep grazers concerned.

In connection with the fears expressed by Deputy Leneghan about the planting of North Mayo, it is true that part of that county was rejected on grounds of exposure and unsuitability. It is also true that much is being and has been learned from the experimental station at Glenamoy and from the work going on at Neifin Beg Forest. It is now clear from the experiments in Glenamoy that there is reasonable hope of successful planting in some of the wild, windswept areas there and there are in fact places being considered for acquisition in that part of the country now that would have been turned down and would not have been considered a short ten years ago. There is still a very large potential for afforestation in that part of North Mayo, in the Erris area, and I am grateful for the Deputy's offer to cooperate in every way to get these large commonages into the acquisition machine of my Department. There are of course some areas on the exposed part of the coast and they, I feel, could not be planted at this time. Perhaps as time goes on and as the experiments at Glenamoy and Neifin Beg continue, the Department will be in a position to deal with these in some years to come because this is a matter about which nobody can prophesy. All the experts who were very rigid on these issues, as I have said a short ten years ago, have had to more or less eat their words, so that it is a question of the experience being gained from these experiments— wind exposure and exposure to the sea —and as the experiments progress, then more and more of the land now regarded as unplantable will, I believe, be planted.

Deputy P. Brennan referred to the question of nurseries. In former times there were in use small nurseries scattered throughout the country. Many of them were unsuitable according to modern technical requirements. The practice now is to endeavour to acquire suitable land of 50 or 60 acres or even more, land that would not only lend itself to mechanisation but would have the particular soil condition necessary for nurseries. I am advised by the technical men that it is not an easy thing to get land suitable for nurseries.

I should like Deputies to appreciate that today we need 35 million plants a year to deal with our 25,000-acre planting programme. That gives Deputies some idea of our nursery requirements. Planting on such a large scale requires not only an abundance of plants of the right type, but also species that are particularly suitable. We can no longer take a chance on setting poor and indifferent plants. That is why, in view of the magnitude of the programme, the nurseries have had to be reviewed and the best soil conditions and the most suitable nurseries provided.

It is regrettable that some of our nurseries have had to be closed down, particularly if it was not possible to absorb the men concerned into the local forestry centre. From my experience of the few cases with which I am familiar, I can say the men who were employed in the nurseries were absorbed into other work in the Forestry Division. However, I would like Deputies to appreciate the new requirements and how essential it is now, in view of the vast planting programme, that we would have the best type of plant produced in the conditions most suitable for our needs.

Deputy McQuillan raised a question about Cloonfad. This matter was brought to my notice during the past weeks. I happen to know the clergyman who is so vitally interested in forestry development. He comes from my own county. I have endeavoured to find out as best I can what substance there is in this complaint.

On this question of man versus machine I want to make it quite clear that there is no bias in my Department towards machinery. Indeed, the contrary is true. I have gone around to the different forestry centres and I have found that the foresters and the men on the spot, generally speaking, have a bias the other way and incline to the view, particularly in regard to drainage, that, depending on the terrain, a better job can be done by experienced men. Before dealing with this specific matter raised by Deputy McQuillan, I want to make it quite clear that there is not, in fact, a bias toward mechanisation generally in the Forestry Division.

As far as I can ascertain from the reports before me, which I carefully examined, the only plot concerned at Cloonfad, in regard to where this complaint about mechanisation was made, is in the townland of Cuilkeen. My report states that this plot comprises only 45 acres. Of that 45 acres, my technical advisers tell me, 37 acres must be mechanically ploughed or otherwise the ground would be completely unplantable. I am also informed that the remaining seven and a half or eight acres are capable of being worked by hand, but are, however, intermixed with the 45-acre plot. Therefore, if machines had to come in at all to deal with the preparation of 37 acres out of 45, it would be impossible for them to operate without dealing with the odd few acres remaining capable of manual working. If the assessment of the situation I have received is correct, even if the seven acres were manually dealt with, it would mean just one week's work for five men.

On the other hand, I know that of the total area planted in the Cloonfad area this year, it would have been quite impracticable to deal with two-thirds of it without mechanical ploughing. Generally speaking, mechanical ploughing is used only where essential, and I would like to kill this belief—it is not generally held but it is held in some quarters—that mechanical ploughing is being used by the Department solely for economic reasons and to oust manual labour. I am satisfied taking the whole picture that, but for mechanical ploughing, the labour force would now be substantially less than it is, because a large percentage of the land planted would be incapable of plantation but for mechanical ploughing.

That is the factual assessment of the complaint I received and which Deputy McQuillan voiced here. In case there could be any mistake I have directed a senior officer to have a look at the situation, the locus in quo to see if a wrong assessment could possibly have been made. Everybody is human and mistakes can be made, but I must say from my experience in my Department the assessments made by the men in the field who send in reports are generally correct.

I accept that. I should like to say that the clergyman in question has no objection to the use of machinery where it is proved it is necessary on the higher mountain areas. I would not like it to be suggested that the people in that area are objecting to the use of machinery.

I quite accept what the Deputy has said. I know that the clergyman concerned, who is a forestry enthusiast, would be the last person to raise a hare of that kind, unless he were convinced that something was wrong. I am giving the Deputy the technical advice given to me in the matter and, as I have informed him, in the event of any mistake being made, I have directed that another look be taken at the assessment.

The Minister does not accept the fact that there is no other part of the country as badly off, in view of the fact that there are a hundred men drawing unemployment assistance?

I am well aware of the general pattern of the small farmers in that area. I do not think there is any other matter I need deal with. Again, I wish to thank the House for its co-operation in connection with this Supplementary Estimate. May I end by making this appeal? I have stressed the difficulties I forsee in maintaining this very large national planting programme of 25,000 acres. May I now appeal to every Deputy, in his particular area, to endeavour to co-operate with my Department in inducing common owners to come together and put at the disposal of the Department the large stretches of common which, in nine out of ten cases, are now unused by the vast majority of owners and which are therefore going to waste throughout the countryside?

Vote put and agreed to.
Progress reported: Committee to sit again.